Orlando Rises as an Emerging Arts Destination

New Emerging cover

World-class theatrical productions, operas, ballet recitals, museums, galleries and more await art aficionados when they come to Orlando.

When you think of Orlando, arts and culture might not be among the first things that come to mind — but they should be. Yes, we're home to Zagat-rated restaurants and expansive resorts, not to mention the world's best theme parks, and we offer easy access to both Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches.

You don't have to look far, though, to realize that Orlando is also an emerging leader when it comes to cultivating and promoting the arts. If you or your family members are artistic spirits, you'll find numerous opportunities to experience performing and visual arts throughout the Orlando, including our recommended standouts below.

Performing Arts in Orlando

Immerse emerging

IMMERSE: Held in downtown Orlando on Oct. 21, and presented by Creative City Project, IMMERSE is a one-stop shop for more than 1,000 artists and performers from Orlando, the United States and around the world. Since its launch in 2012, the event's goal has been to truly immerse attendees in art installations, live performances and interactive demonstrations. In 2017, featured collaborators will include Cirque du Soleil, The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Orlando Ballet and the Central Florida Community Arts Orchestra.

CFCArts emerging 

Central Florida Community Arts (CFCArts): Seeking to make the arts accessible and affordable for all, CFCArts prides itself in providing a platform not just for creative networking, but where people can sing, play instruments and perform together. Lessons, workshops and classes are available from their School of Performing Arts. Furthermore, the Choir, Orchestra and Children & Youth Arts programs perform seasonal productions throughout the year.

DrPhillips emerging

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts 

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts: The crown jewel of Orlando's arts scene, the Dr. Phillips Center houses the intimate, 300-seat Pugh Theater; the acoustic, 1,700-seat Steinmetz Hall; and the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater. Uplifting symphonies, masterful stage shows, in-demand pop artists and even top comedians have commanded sellout crowds since its opening, providing a never-ending lineup of quality arts from around the world.

Garden Theatre: Located just a stone's throw from the parks in charming Winter Garden, the Garden Theatre originally launched as a movie house in 1935. Today, the since-restored venue still shows films — particularly during their Summer Movie Series — but they've expanded their offerings to include plays, concerts, ballet performances and even ghost tours. While you're there, be sure to check out Plant Street's tasty dining options.

Mad Cow Theatre: Founded in 1997, Mad Cow is one of Orlando's most respected theater companies. Focusing on productions that appeal to a wide range of audiences, the organizers have a passion for classic and contemporary plays and musicals representing the best the world has to offer. Plus, visits to their Church Street venue are perfect opportunities to explore everything else that makes downtown Orlando special.

Opera Orlando: This is a fairly young troupe, but Opera Orlando has made great strides in enriching Orlando's cultural landscape. Although they have no dedicated theater of their own, they produce acclaimed performances throughout the region. For instance, all three productions from their 2017–2018 season, including La Bohème, Cinderella, and Amahl and the Night Visitors will take place at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

ballet emerging

Courtesy of United Arts of Central Florida grantee organizations 

Orlando Ballet: A centerpiece of Orlando's artistic community for more than 40 years, the Orlando Ballet performs exclusively at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Having started with just 12 unpaid dancers, the company now supports 25 full-time, professional dancers of national and international renown. Through their Orlando Ballet II program, they support pre-professional dancers, while the Orlando Ballet School trains the next generation.

Orlando Repertory Theatre: Affectionately known as "The Rep," this organization has come a long way since its humble beginnings as the Orlando Little Theatre in 1926. Their core mission is to present quality productions designed to enlighten, entertain and enrich the whole family — both children and adults — while simultaneously challenging audiences with culturally diverse, intergenerational fare. It's the perfect place to introduce your little ones to the arts.

Orlando Shakespeare Theater: The play's the thing, as William Shakespeare said, but his work isn't the only thing on tap at his namesake theater. This season, for example, they're producing Man of La Mancha and The Hound of The Baskervilles, among others, including some for younger audiences. The Bard himself is represented, too, thanks to upcoming productions of Twelfth Night and Shakespeare in Love.

Timucua Arts Foundation: Operating out of a self-designed and self-built house near downtown Orlando, the Timucua Arts Foundation produces more than 70 live performances each year. What's more, most of their events cost nothing to attend, although they do request donations to offset performers' expenses. (As a word to the wise, the venue is limited to 99 seats, so tickets do tend to go fast.) The organization's founder and chairman is Benoit Glazer, who's a former music director for La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs.

Museums & Galleries in Orlando

Polasek emerging

Albin Polasek Museum

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens: Decades after he rose to fame, acclaimed sculptor Albin Polasek retired to Winter Park in 1950, building his dream home on Lake Osceola. Now a museum, the facility and its lush grounds keep Polasek's memory and work alive for new generations to discover. For serious Polasek admirers, limited-edition reproductions of the master's creations are available for purchase, too. 

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art: Everyone's heard of — and many have coveted — Tiffany glass, and there's no place to see more of it than Winter Park's Morse Museum. Inside, visitors will find Louis Comfort Tiffany's art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows, jewelry, pottery and even paintings. The museum is also home to Tiffany's chapel interior from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, as well as works by other late 19th- and early 20th-century American artists.

Cornell emerging

Cornell Fine Arts Museum

Cornell Fine Arts Museum: Located at Rollins College, Cornell is one of the area's best museums. Even better: Admission is absolutely free. Curated by Dr. Amy Galpin, the facility is home to more than 5,500 works of art that run the gamut from ancient to modern and every era in between. Cornell is also home to the only sizable collection of European Old Masters (aka historical famous painters) in the Orlando area.

Mennello emerging

Sculpture Garden at The Mennello Museum of American Art

The Mennello Museum of American Art: This museum's primary mission is the preservation and exhibition of its permanent collection of paintings by acclaimed, self-taught artist Earl Cunningham. However, the Mennello also presents temporary exhibits, programs, educational initiatives and publications that celebrate the work of other traditional and contemporary American artists. Located on the banks of Lake Formosa, it's a must-visit for anyone who appreciates art.

OMART emerging
Image courtesy of the Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando Museum of Art: One of Orlando's premier cultural institutions since 1924, the Orlando Museum of Art curates the most compelling collections and exhibits possible to enrich the community and those who visit it. Each year, the facility presents between 10 to 12 on-site and 13 off-site exhibitions. The museum's dedicated staff also provides art enrichment programs, lectures, classes and outreach services.

Broaden Your Artistic Horizons

These performance troupes, venues and museums are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the arts in Orlando. Discover even more ways to explore arts, culture and history by visiting our website, and get the latest Orlando arts updates from our blog.

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